Super Best Audio Friends
The evolution of the original irreverent and irrelevant and non-authoritative site for headphone measurements, i.e. frequency response graphs, CSD waterfall plots, subjective gear reviews. Too objective for subjectivists; too subjective for objectivists
I can't recall exactly, but I thought maybe the HD558 may have had very slightly angled drivers. Regardless, the HD560S takes the cake and pulls of a really impression of the HD800's headstage. Very impressive! From my limited experience so far, the headstage is closer to the HD800 end of the spectrum than the HD6xx end. Unfortunately, this is where the good news stops. The frequency response takes a hit. The HD558, the predecessor to the HD560S, had small an upper-mid peak. This wasn't particularly obtrusive and made a lot of music sound more energetic. @ultrabike owned the HD558 for years and was perfectly happy with it before finally upgrade to the HD600...
I don't really even hear the single full range driver imaging that I hear with my Fibhorn 2, which is a 3 inch driver back loaded "horn" (though diyaudio experts think it's technically a transmission line). Fibhorn 2 also extends farther in treble (around 10k) and has flatter midbass....
If that’s all you care to read, there you go; I saved you some good minutes reading what is going to be quite an excessively long post. If you do want to dive more in-depth as to how I think it sounds, the features, and its quirks (and downsides; yes it has those), then read on.
I’m getting this out of the way first, because let’s be real; this is the most important thing. All of the following evaluation, unless explicitly stated otherwise, is from using the linear phase filter, fed from Pi2AES through AES,no attenuation from the built-in preamp (I will get to the preamp and various filters later on), and XLR out.
STUFF WE NEED TO BUY: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...hrow-away-your-pc-or-laptop.8878/#post-288017 The exception to above that we want the acrylic case for the 7" display instead of the regular one, and of course the official Raspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen Display
I ordered a variety pack of AZLA SednaEarfit XELASTEC tips from Amazon to try them out. I had heard from someone here that they run large, and you might need to go a half-size smaller with the XELASTEC tips. That turned out to be correct. I'm a M with Spiral Dots and a MS with the XELASTEC tips.
The Starfield is what I would call a warm and smooth take on a neutral signature. While it’s more neutral than most stuff out there, it’s not exactly a reference type tuning. Bass is pleasantly boosted over neutral without sounding bassy. It’s got really satisfying punch and rumble. Mids are natural, with slight heft to my ears, and sit well in the pocket drawing your attention in. Treble is just a little under neutral for an ever so slightly laid back and forgiving presentation. Tonality is great; it’s very natural sounding. Staging and resolution on the other hand are just average, yet somehow this is a plus- the Starfield just lets the music wash over me without constantly analyzing everything. Instead I’m thinking, man that song was great, I wonder what’s next on the random rotation.
The Blessing 2 is a neutral sounding in-ear; it is a reference type signature. It has a very slight bass boost over diffuse field flat that is centered in deep bass. The result is a natural, yet neutral sounding bass with very good extension. It has impact and rumble when called for but is never over accentuated to my ears. While very nimble and quick sounding, it’s lacking a bit in texture compared to the best dynamic drivers, resulting in a slightly over damped sound.
The Hestia is a 60 stepped relay attenuator. The flagship Denafrips preamp, the Athena, has the same specs with lower distortion numbers. The Athena by the way looks to be two Hestias in one box - one Hestia per channel. The same way the Hattor Big preamp just doubles up on the stepped attenuators when you step up from the Hattor Mini. I only mention this because I was originally going to buy the Athena, thinking bigger was better until I studied the specs and pictures a bit more - mainly noticing that despite double the number of relays the number of volume steps remained unchanged. I seriously doubt the two preamps sound any different. Folks at ASR might be willing to pay for the lower distortion numbers though. New, it will cost you about $900.
By the way, the HD800 S Anniversary Edition seems to be quite different from the HD800, and by extension, a little different from the HD800S. It's still an HD800 in terms of soundstage, timbre, transients; but the subjective tonal balance seems a bit different. I could be dreaming though. Will put this on the bench to confirm, but my sense is that the midrange dip is more evident, the 6kHz is no longer existent, but the highs are still up there. Also, the bass quality seems more in line with the HD800 than HD800S which sounded thicker to my ears (this is a good thing).
With the ZEN Phono, the "nothing better until we spend much more" argument is still valid, but there's also buy this because it's actually very very good. To be honest, the $149 price is absolutely shocking. With iFi, I would expect $399. But heck, let's see iFi bring it on for the masses. I hope iFi sells thousands and thousands of these.
List of rhythmdevils recommended neutral iem’s in order of price not including aftermarket tips:
- Surge+ dynamic waterproof iem 40$ now on sale otherwise 50$ - ever so slightly warm, great tonality.
- EDC3 100$ on drop.com with optional modded Symbios F Peel tips if stock tips are too small - neutral
- Sony M7 500$ now with Sony sale otherwise 700$ With Azla Sedna Earfit Light (NOT short) - neutral
- CA Androeda 2020 1,099$ with Penon Audio tips (see review for link to tips). - warmer than neutral but extremely resolving and fast
- CA Ara 1300$ with Azla Sedna Earfit Light Short tips - the most neutral iem I’ve heard with deep insertion.
- CA og Solaris 1499$ with normal not original or + or ++ tips - neutral
Where I will start is that I do expect the band members, or the drivers in this case, to play as a band and not as individuals. I don't expect the timbres of the different drivers to sound the same, as this is impossible, even with multi-way speakers. However, I do expect that the frequency ranges where the drivers overlap and hand the signal off, to sound cohesive and as seamless as possible. This is just one of my pet peeves, whether it comes to multi-driver speakers or IEMs (sometimes I wonder if folks outside of SBAF notice such things concerning overall cohesiveness.) The good news is that California Audio Technology or CAT, manages to pull this off with their Apollo hybrid IEM. The driver integration is on-par with another hybrid IEM that pulls it off decently, the Campfire Audio Solaris. That's two IEMs in my book (there may very well be more today, but I have not gotten my ears on them yet).